- The Washington Times - Monday, June 10, 2019

Authorities have announced the arrest of a fourth suspect in the beating and stabbing death of teenage girl found by a creek in Prince George’s County in April.

In a press release Monday, Prince George’s County Police said that Edwin Rios, 18, of Southeast, was in the custody of the Metropolitan Police Department. He was awaiting extradition to the county in connection with the April 18 slaying of Ariana Funes-Diaz, 14, in Riverdale.

Three other suspects — Cynthia Hernandez-Nucamendi, 14; Josue Fuentes-Ponce, 16; and Joel Ernesto Escobar, 17 — are accused of killing Funes-Diaz in an effort to keep secret their activities in the MS-13 street gang.

Funes-Diaz was reported as a runaway on April 18. She had been living in a group home for girls — Marys Mount Manor in Anne Arundel County, according to a report from WUSA9. The Maryland Department of Juvenile Services and social services agencies sends girls to the group home as an alternative to detention or to remove them from an unsafe environment. Officials declined to discuss Funes-Diaz.

According to police, the suspects drove Funes-Diaz to an apartment complex in Riverdale, walked her to a wooded area behind the complex, and beat and stabbed her multiple times on April 18. They had feared she was going to alert authorities to a kidnapping and robbery they had committed together in April, police said.

Police discovered her body in a creek on the 6300 block of 64th Avenue in Riverdale at about 10 a.m. on May 15.

The Washington Times reported last month that Prince George’s County’s sanctuary policy allowed one of the suspects, who is an immigrant living in the U.S. illegally, to be released onto the streets when he should have been detained for an attempted murder charge.

Mr. Escobar, a citizen of El Salvador, had been charged with attempted murder in 2018, but was convicted only of conspiracy to commit robbery.

In fact, both Mr. Escobar and Mr. Fuentes-Ponce faced charges of attempted murder last year, and the Prince George’s County Department of Corrections transferred them to state detention facilities.

Eventually, Mr. Fuentes-Ponce was released from the state’s Cheltenham Youth Detention Center, and Mr. Escobar was sentenced to time served and released to Prince George’s County — which released him in defiance of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer request.

Andrew Cephas, a spokesman for the corrections department, told The Times last month that the county notifies ICE only for the most serious crimes.

“As law enforcement officers, we must continue to serve and protect the American public and act in the interest of public safety first,” Diane Witte, director of the ICE Baltimore field office, said in a press release. “These individuals had demonstrated violent criminal behavior before, and because they were released in spite of the lawful detainer, they were afforded an opportunity to take a life.”

Police say Mr. Escobar and Mr. Fuentes-Ponce are members of the MS-13 gang. All four suspects have been charged as adults with first-degree murder.

• Sophie Kaplan can be reached at skaplan@washingtontimes.com.

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